Whether you have decided to run a 5k for a good cause or just because, committing to completing 3.1 miles is something to celebrate! But before you can really bask in the glory of crossing the finish line, we’ve got some tips to get you through your first race.
1. Choose a training schedule that suits YOU
Training for a 5k doesn’t have to be daunting and it doesn’t mean running every day of the week. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses – it’s about keeping a commitment to yourself. Take an honest look at your schedule and your personality and think about when you will actually put in the miles. Hate mornings? Evening runs never looked better than in the summer. Loathe treadmills? Find a trail. Work with who you are and what you like and celebrate that.
2. Stretch your muscles and your SOUL
It’s important to be loose when you start your workout, but it’s even more important to stretch post-run. Incorporating some deep chill yoga or restorative positions into your routine, especially on days off, will help your muscles recover. Foam rollers and massage sticks are good tools to keep around the house. Even if running this 5K seems like a one-time thing, let your training and mentality leading up to it become a lifestyle.
3. Wear the Right Stuff
Converse high-tops might have worked for the Sandlot kids, but those probably aren’t your best bet for road running, even if they are classic. Invest in a decent pair of running sneakers at the beginning of your training and make sure they are broken in by race day. Also, think about picking up sweat resistant shorts and shirts and test out different athletic gear during your training so you have an idea of what you find comfortable. You don’t want a race-day wedgie giving you a rash!
4. Fuel and Hydrate Properly
Running is this bizarre push and pull of feeling powerful in spite of having nothing left in the tank. Except, running on empty doesn’t work. During your training, find the fuel that works best for your body. Don’t reinvent your nutrition wheel on race day. Eating a banana and peanut butter could work as a pre-race munchie for your neighbor, but it might make you gag. Also – it’s not just about hydrating during and after your training runs – you should be hydrating and drinking water all day long.
5. Finish Strong and Pace Yourself
So what if a rickety old man or energetic child sprints (or crawls) by you at the first or second mile marker? Kudos to them for conquering their own journey, but your race isn’t about them– it’s about YOU. Focus on your own plan and pacing strategy. During training, try a few different approaches – do a walk/run, start out fast, gradually increase your pace as you go, run intervals – see what you like, and use your favorite approach on race day.
Everyone calls a 5k a “race,” but is it, really? It’s not about when you cross the finish line, it’s about getting there and doing it. You’ve got this – the starting line welcomes runners long before race day – and you’ve got a running community of fitness newbies, converted couch potatoes and cross country veterans supporting every stride.